The BuzzFeed layoffs fallout

More on the fallout over BuzzFeed‘s recent announcement of a 15% reduction in staff: “BuzzFeed’s Experimental Era Is Over.”

Pull quotes:

  • It led the charge on optimizing content for social platforms and has still fallen into the same trap as everyone else: there isn’t enough advertising money and readers are used to reading BuzzFeed for free.
  • According to a public Facebook post, BuzzFeed’s top community member last year netted the site 130 million views, and in return received BuzzFeed-branded merch including a tote bag, water bottle, t-shirt, koozie, stickers, socks, a couple of books and some pens. In effect, BuzzFeed got 130 million pageviews for the price of a bit of leftover swag, a much lower cost than a writer’s annual salary in New York City or Los Angeles.

I’m not sure where the data came from that was published on the “public Facebook post,” but let’s assume it’s true. 130 million views equates to 130,000 “units” of 1,000 views. If we assume a $5 eCPM (which is probably leaning on the conservative side), that means in English that my guesstimate is that BuzzFeed would gross $650,000 for that free “user generated content.” Subtract the cost of the koozie, socks, and pens of course.

Total media layoffs in the past month are now north of 1,350.

Stark (but reasonable) conclusion about the state of digital publishing from Ben Thompson’s Stratechery:

  • Advertising can augment a publisher, but it’s hard to believe it can support one, even one expressly built for the Internet. That is now the realm of Aggregators.

I’m always seeking signs of journalism figuring out a sustainable business model. This piece reports that the Seattle Times “grew its digital subscriber base 38 percent to 40,000 in 2018,” and, importantly, has tilted its coverage to investigative journalism and reporting that serves its subscribers versus seeking maximum clicks.

This is a good excuse to give a shout out to Seattle Times journalist Mike Rosenberg, who is a great follow on Twitter for topics relating to transportation, housing, gentrification, and other urban issues.

In other positive, or at least positively interesting, media news, Spotify is reportedly in talks to buy podcasting company Gimlet Media.

Pull quote:

  • According to Recode, Spotify is offering to pay more than $200 million for the company. Gimlet Media, which was founded by Alex Blumberg (a former producer for This American Life) and Matthew Lieber in 2014, has been one of the dominant figures in the growing podcasting market.

One of the more fascinating things about Gimlet Media — beyond its high quality bevy of podcasts — is that it’s becoming a machine for turning its unscripted (Startup) and scripted (Homecoming) shows into produced television shows.

This post originally appeared in what had originally been called The Eric Berlin E-mail Newsletter. To get a weekly blast of pop culture, digital media, and politics that helps make sense of an increasingly frazzled world, sign on up for The Berlin Files here.

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